Hamilton Sevens Day Two: Aussies fall short as Fiji triumph again
The flying Fijians have done it again, overwhelming the USA 38-0 in the final to claim gold, lift the Hamilton Sevens title, and move into top spot on the World Series ladder.
Australia finished in seventh place after losses to both New Zealand and Scotland on day two, leaving them sixth on the overall standings.
Having topped Pool A with victory over the Aussies the previous night (For a look at how Day One unfolded for Australia, please click here), Fiji carried on where they left off with comprehensive wins over both Canada and reigning World Sevens Series champions South Africa, to book a place in the final.
There they would take on the biggest improvers on the Series, the USA, who confirmed their genuine title credentials with a third cup final in three tournaments off the back of a 17-7 victory over hosts New Zealand in the semi-final.
But there was no contest in the title decider, a rampant Fiji running in six tries to claim back-to-back titles following their success in Cape Town. They now overtake the USA to lead the World Series after three rounds, with New Zealand and South Africa rounding out the top four.
For the Aussies it was a day to forget, with the loss to their trans-Tasman rivals in the Cup Quarter-Finals, compounded by defeat at the hands of Scotland in the 5th place semi-final.
“We’re disappointed with how day two went down today and we can’t bury our heads in the sand and just accept average performances,” said head coach Tim Walsh. “We know where we went wrong, and we know how to solve it. This tournament was a reversal of the Cape Town in terms of key areas.
“Our defence and restart possession were very good, but our attack lacked decisiveness and support. There is minimal room for error in the game and if you can’t consistently be a jack of all trades and a master of some you get found out very quickly.
“We’re looking forward to getting into our recovery and reviews and playing at our home tournament, the HSBC Sydney 7s next weekend.”
Despite a stoic effort from the men in green and gold, the trans-Tasman Quarter-Final was effectively over by half-time as the hosts set out to impress a vocal home crowd at Waikato Stadium.
Controlling possession, New Zealand hammered the Australian line for a full five minutes before getting their breakthrough when Dylan Collier went in. But the score opened the floodgates as Jona Nareki and Regan Ware both went over to give the local favourites a popular 17-0 lead at the break.
The Aussies had to score next if they were to remain in the contest, and they did just that when a line break from Maurice Longbottom paved the way for Simon Kennewell to grab a five-pointer. However, the prolific Tim Mikkelson soon restored the healthy advantage with a trademark try to keep his team in the driving seat.
You couldn’t fault the sterling effort put in by Australia right up to the final whistle, late tries by skipper Lewis Holland and Josh Coward putting some respectability on the scoreline to make it 24-17. But they ultimately paid for that first half barrage, and were left to prepare for a meeting against Scotland, and a chance for a best-possible 5th placed finish.
They started their second game of the day well, Lachie Anderson finishing off a nice team play to go over near the posts for an early 7-0 lead. But Scotland are one of the biggest improvers on this year’s World Series, and they showed why when they hit back after some concerted pressure, with the dynamic Max McFarland adding to his burgeoning reputation with another try to level matters at the break.
The Scots came out firing from the restart, captain Robbie Fergusson and a second for McFarland catching Australia cold to leave them trailing 19-7 with five minutes remaining. They got themselves within range when Longbottom showed some tidy handling skills to cross the chalk, and Coward converted for 19-14.
But a late try from Jamie Ferndale confirmed the Scottish victory, and moved his side within 2pts of the Aussies on the World Series ladder ahead of next weekend’s tournament in Sydney.
AUSTRALIA 17 NEW ZEALAND 24
Tries: Simon Kennewell, Lewis Holland, Josh Coward
Cons: Josh Coward
5th PLACE SEMI-FINAL
AUSTRALIA 14 SCOTLAND 24
Tries: Lachie Anderson, Maurice Longbottom
Cons: John Porch, Josh Coward